Washed by rain and foraged by a team of four—ingredients for an Ontario cidery.By: MARYAM SIDDIQI
Photos by: CHLOë ELLINGSON
The light rain is a reprieve from the intense heat and humidity that southern Ontario has been experiencing all summer. It’s also Mother Nature’s way of giving a rinse to the wild apples about to be picked by a crew from Revel Cider.
“…we’re picking different flowers and botanicals as they come into season.”
As three members of the Guelph-based cidery’s production team lay a mat on the knee-high grass, prop a ladder against high-up branches and grab their picking poles, Tariq Ahmed, Revel’s founder, points to a spot in the distance. “We just found that one today,” he says of a tree about 20 metres away. “We were picking these three here yesterday and just missed it.” The new-found tree is bursting with small red apples. It’s prime picking time, and Ahmed explains that their hope is to collect about 1,800 kilograms of apples from the trees on the Caledon farm where Sonnen Hill Brewing is based. That volume of fruit should generate 1,000 litres of cider.
Ahmed launched Revel in 2014 as a one-man operation. Today the company has a team of 10 producing 80 different types of ciders, though not all of them are available at the same time—it depends on what nature provides. “Foraging is a big part of what we do, and over the course of the year, we’re picking different flowers and botanicals as they come into season,” he says. When Osawamick was first learning to hoop dance, he used seven hoops and over time worked his way up to using 22. As he became more experienced, he realized the real challenge was doing more with less. Four days prior to this rainy morning, Ahmed scoped out this location to get a sense of what the bounty might be. “I drove up expecting to find one tree; then [brewery owner] Calum Hill took me to the property and there were 50 trees,” he says.
This is Ahmed’s first year foraging at this site. Normally, in the late days of August, they’d be preparing nectarines. “We’re usually hand-pitting a couple thousand pounds of nectarines at this time, which has historically taken us two weeks,” he explains. But with a new pitting machine in the arsenal, they can do that volume in one day.
The cider resulting from the apples harvested from these trees will be shipped throughout North America and as far away as Sweden and Shanghai. “Our customers are excited to try new things,” Ahmed says. “For us, and [me] personally, it’s exciting to make new things.”